Facebook 101

Courtesy of Handmade Business

It's easy to think of Facebook as simply a social networking website where young people hang out and connect with their friends. Surprisingly, one in five Facebook users are actually between the ages of 35 and 54, accounting for the fastest-growing demographic (in the six months leading up to January 2009, their numbers grew by 276 percent)--a trend that shows every sign of continuing. Far from being the province of the young, Facebook is a tool being increasingly used by everyone, with the number of registered users passing the 100-million mark last August.

Aside from providing social interaction with friends, Facebook can also be a professional networking tool for interacting with customers and building networks with other craft businesses and suppliers. You can even set up an online shop complete with product listings.

If you're new to Facebook, the first step is to visit www.facebook.com and sign up for a personal account using the form on the home page. Once you've set up your account, you have the option of creating a profile for use by your craft business. There are two types of profiles from which to choose: group and fan page.

To set up your own group, scroll to the bottom left corner of your Facebook profile and click on the third icon from the left. You'll then be taken to the Facebook Groups page. Groups can be anything from local crafts collectives to craft businesses who set up groups for their customers. Users can search for local craftwork groups by entering keywords in the search box.

To create a group profile for your craft business, select "Create a New Group" on the top right. Give your group a name, description, type (e.g. Entertainment and Arts) and subgroup (e.g. fine art), then enter your contact e-mail and location. Next, customize your group profile with an appropriate image and add your Web address. There are various options to determine what group members can see and do, from discussion boards to uploading videos. Finally, choose the access level for your new group. You can make it open (so anyone can join) or closed (all new members will have to be approved by you). The latter allows you to moderate who can join, but on the flip side means you may have to spend a little more time administering the group.

Networks are rather like groups, except they are based around workplaces, regions, schools or universities. So, while it's not possible to join or create a craft "network," you can join local networks associated with the community where your craft business is based. Browse the available networks at www.facebook.com/networks/networks.php .

Fan pages
Create a fan page (an alternative to a group) by visiting www.facebook.com/advertising/?pages and selecting "Create a Page." Select a category (you could choose "Other Business" from the first drop-down list) and enter your craft business name. Complete the form and you'll be taken to your new Facebook craft business page where you can enter your business details and add a profile picture by clicking on the large question-mark icon on the top left.

Both groups and fan pages allow you to have discussion forums through which you can interact with potential craft business customers or network with other craft businesses. Equally, you can use either a group or fan page to message all of your members. They differ in that setting up a group allows you to send out bulk invites to a customer e-mail list. That said, Facebook fan pages are visible to unregistered visitors to Facebook and search engines like Google (handy for promotion). You can also find groups fairly easily using keyword searches on Facebook, whereas profiles may be harder to find if someone is relying entirely on a search. Facebook page profiles include stats so you can check out how popular your Facebook page is and whether people are visiting--a feature not available with groups. Probably the most crucial difference is that a Facebook page can make use of applications, while a group can't. This brings us neatly to the subject of available applications that might prove interesting for craftspeople.

Facebook offers the choice of "open" groups for automatic membership and "closed" groups for moderating who can join.

Searching by town and craft key word (jewelry, ceramics, beadwork, etc.) can reveal local craft groups who might be interested in your work.

Useful Facebook applications

The useful eBay Auctions Facebook application for listing items for sale.

A full list of Facebook applications (or "apps") can be found by clicking "Applications" on the bottom left of your Facebook profile screen, then clicking "Browse More Applications." There are a number of useful applications you could consider adding to a Facebook fan page--these include "Etsy," an online tool for selling handmade items (including craftwork). (To make use of this app, you would need to be registered on Etsy.com . This is just a matter of visiting the Etsy website and filling out a form to sign up. Etsy charges a three-and-a-half-percent fee (based on the total sales price) and 20 cents for each item listed. Another alternative app is "eBay Auctions"--add this to your Facebook fan page to list all the craftwork items you have for sale on the eBay website. You can simply enter these names in the application search box to find them. Once you've found an application you want, add it to your Facebook fan page by clicking on the "Go to Application" button (top left of page). There are also photo album applications, like "Photo Album Strip," that can be used for organizing and displaying images of your craftwork.

Sign up for a free Facebook account at www.facebook.com
As a free marketing tool, Facebook is well worth considering. Once you have your profile--whether personal, group or fan page, consider updating your status regularly with details of new promotions and sales, current craftwork projects, shows, fairs and exhibitions you're attending and/or updates to your blog or business website.

Facebook fan pages provide an alternative to group profiles, though there is no reason you can't set up both types for your craft business.

For more information
Your Facebook business name: Already reserved?

An Introduction to Facebook for Marketers in plain English

The Crafts Report on Facebook